13/02/2015 Leave a comment
Yesterday at Suffolk County Council it was budget day and the big set piece of Council life. What struck me most in the course of the 3 hour debate was firstly how powerful actual debate is, something that is sorely lacking in modern council structures and how it really highlights the differences of focus between Labour and the Conservatives. Cllr. Martin, the Leader of the Labour group, spoke of county life ”There are a few pirogue in Suffolk who would cope perfectly well with minimal county council services’. ‘So long as the roads are well-enough maintained for them to be able to drive their children to their private schools and visit their private hospitals’ a shocking generalisation but very telling none the less.
I got into politics because people where I live often struggle with their budgets and when the county council was controlled by Labour and the Liberals, people really struggled with the ridiculous tax demands the council repeatedly threatened people with. Those I represent are hard-working people who in the main don’t drive large cars or take their children to private schools, they sit down at their kitchen table and work out their budget and pay their bills.
I said then and I said yesterday councils should live within their means and stop treating hard pressed families as cash cows. I of course accept that 0% council tax rises are unstainable in the long term, of course they are, inflation is inflation and cannot be absorbed forever equally we have an ageing population and despite new ways of working with communities yielding short term benefits, in the longer term our ageing population cannot be supported with the current structure of either social care or the NHS and more money will have to be spend nationally and thus locally in these areas.
During the debate as I mentioned the tax rises of the last Labour/Liberal administration I was reminded across twitter that when Labour put the County Council Tax up by 18.5% the Conservative counter-proposal was 14.5% and it struck me how times have changed. The mind sets that existed in those days of an ever enlarging local gov and state sector demanding more and more of people’s money to build empires, is thankfully a thing of the past and we are now in a period of re-visioning born of economic reality, which is yesterday’s Suffolk Labour Group amendment and speaker after speaker is anything to go by, is still something Labour can’t grasp, truly scary! Since we came to power in 2005 Suffolk County Council has been on a strict course of efficiencies but it is in these last 5 years of government grant constriction that the most dramatic changes have been required to reshape the council to protect services to the most vulnerable in our communities. There is no doubt collectively local government is getting to the blunt end of efficiencies, but there is more to come. Structurally what the future holds for local government in Suffolk and indeed across the country is starting to be debated and is required to continue to protect services to vulnerable people and equally protect hard pressed families who work and pay their Council Tax bill.
So I leave you with one thought:
The last eight Labour and Liberal years
1998/99 – 10%
1999/00 – 8.4%
2000/01 – 7.3%
2001/02 – 6.9%
2002/03 – 11.9%
2003/04 – 18.5%
2004/05 – 3.8%
2005/06 – 2.5% (in election year, achieved in desperation with the use of reserves)
2006/07 – 4.5%
2007/08 – 4.5%
2008/09 – 3.7%
2009/10 – 2.45% (SCC’s lowest-ever increase)
2010/11 – 2.4% (ditto)
2011/12 – 0%
2012/13 – 0%
2013/14 – 0%
2014/15 – 0%
And as of yesterday 2015/16 – 0%
Who do you think is on the side of hard working people just trying to pay their bills?